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One-and-done rate too high? 5 ways to turn loyalty members into brand ambassadors

Brand ambassadors

It's nearly impossible to grow a business without one key component: a loyal customer base who keeps coming back for more. Even better than that? A base of customers so devoted they become brand ambassadors. 

Brand ambassadors aren't just loyal customers; they don't just buy your products. In fact, this coveted group loves the brand so much that they promote it to their friends and followers. They are the de facto experts on your company. Even in today's digital world, word of mouth is one of the best ways to acquire new customers and drive growth. 

If a significant portion of your customer base only buys your products once, there's a good chance you aren't effectively engaging with them. Poor engagement brings with it a slew of undesired outcomes: non-responsiveness from customers when you release new products; a lack of customer feedback; and even negative comments and reviews on social media. 

One surefire way to avoid these pitfalls is to provide the most engaging redemption journey possible for your customers. After all, research suggests that 86% 1 of consumers are more loyal to brands when they actively participate in their loyalty programs.

Here are five ways you can turn loyal customers into brand ambassadors—just by making some strategic adjustments to your membership reward program.

1. Embrace the halo effect

One way to build your ambassador following is to partner with a well-known brand. Although arranging a valuable partnership is easier said than done, there are solutions that make it simple. Taking advantage of products like Bakkt's Apple® Rewards, which can be fully integrated into your existing rewards experience, unlocks a built-in customer base with unique buyer intent.

Far from just phones and computers, Apple sells their customers a fully integrated ecosystem. Apple products work seamlessly together—and in some cases, even require each other. The upshot? Customers keep returning. Users don't buy one product; they buy multiple products. Aside from the top-tier hardware and design, Apple has created an interconnected web of technology that encourages users to become repeat shoppers.

And it works. Most people have a favorable view of Apple. The company has curried strong goodwill with the public over the years—across demographics, but especially among Gen Z audiences.2 Aligning with a brand such as this that already has a strong following can create a halo effect for loyalty programs. All those good things people think about Apple? Now they'll think them about your brand too. 

2. Provide a quicker path to value and easier wins

Customers don't like to wait. They can get frustrated when shipping takes longer than expected, or if they have to stay on hold for too long. The same is true for rewards programs. Just 22% of people who are part of a rewards program feel that the effort required to earn a reward is reasonable.3 That leaves a whopping 78% who are less than pleased with the time-to-value. Waiting months or even years to get a simple reward from a brand is discouraging and can cause customers to look to your competition for sweeter deals. 

Having a split-pay option lets customers utilize their points and benefit from loyalty programs right off the bat. They experience firsthand the value of doing business with you even in the earlier stages of their membership, as their rewards points allow them to purchase discounted goods upfront. Forget waiting six months to redeem a cup of coffee.

Even if customers end up paying for 80% of an iPhone in cash, that 20% off is a benefit they received from you—and one they're not likely to forget. These flexible payment options give clients an early win that inspires more commerce in the future. Humans are hard-wired to respond well to rewards,4 so why not make them happy early on and increase their chances of returning?

3. Incorporate experiential benefits

While customers love transactional benefits, which can go a long way in building loyalty, there is also a strong demand for experiential benefits. Experiential benefits bring that emotional pull that customers remember—the special, often intangible thing that makes them rave about your brand to friends and family.

An experiential benefit can mean providing access to special moments and activities, but it can also be as simple as having a dedicated and knowledgeable customer service team. In order to cultivate brand ambassadors, it is vital to let customers know that their voices are being heard. Furthermore, a great customer service experience lets customers feel listened to and appreciated, increasing the chance that they'll be back. 5

When you implement Apple Rewards, for instance, your customers can have full access to Bakkt's 100% U.S.-based call center. They'll also have the choice to redeem for AppleCare+ as well as other experiential rewards in the form of Apple's renowned media products: Apple music, Apple TV+ and Apple News+ trials. When customers binge the latest streaming show, or listen to their favorite song, your brand will be top of mind. This is the emotional foundation that turns a program member into a brand ambassador. 

4. Use strategic promotions

Once you've determined which type of rewards solution to use, you should promote the program to your members— if they don't know about it, they can't take advantage of it! This can mean sending out marketing emails, placing promotional banners on your website or app, or building incentives for customer participation.

Marketing your rewards program can lead to more sales, but only if the redemption experience is already engaging on its own. When Bakkt assisted a client with a promotion of their Apple Storefront, there was a 24% increase in web visitors, 31% rise in total orders, and an impressive 123% jump in total sales compared to previous weeks.

5. Be flexible and offer choice 

There are several ways to offer program members flexibility and choice. Providing fungible rewards, multiple payment options, and unique ways to redeem points are all great strategies. Flexibility and the quicker path to value that comes with it may also lower churn rates and increase sales — around 56% of consumers have abandoned a purchase after they realized their points had expired.6 If they'd had more avenues through which to use those points, they likely wouldn't have expired in the first place.

One way to be flexible with customers is through payment methods. Allowing customers to use different ways to pay, such as cash, points, or a combination of the two, gives them more freedom to use their currency when and how they'd like. 

Another route to customer satisfaction is to make available different rewards across various categories, so all your program members will find a reward they love. There are several variations in the type of rewards and experiences that customers value, and your offerings should reflect this.

For example, you could use a program solution with many available and high-quality items (such as Apple Rewards), or combine a solution with another product, such as Bakkt® Travel Rewards, to create an even more diverse range of options.

Whichever solution you choose, working with a high-quality brand while keeping these best practices in mind can help you increase your customer base, grow a loyal ambassador following, and ultimately increase sales. 

This does not constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell, or otherwise transact in any investment, including any of the product(s) mentioned herein, or an invitation, offer or solicitation to engage in any investment activity. This information is provided solely on the basis that you will make your own investment decisions, and Bakkt does not take account of any investor's investment objectives, particular needs, or financial situation. It is strongly recommended that you seek professional investment advice before making any investment decision.

1 Clarus Commerce, 2021

2 Morning Consult, based on July 2022-January 2023. Accessed Jan 2023.

3 2015 and 2021 Bond Brand Loyalty Report

4 Romper. “Turns Out, Your Brain Hates When You Don't Reward It, According To Experts.” Accessed March 2023.

5 PwC. “Experience is everything. Get it right.” Accessed March 2023.

6 Clarus Commerce, 2021